The New York Rangers enjoyed their best season in 20 years in 2013-14, as they made it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the memorable run in 1994. However, the Rangers face a number of pressing questions this offseason.
GM Glen Sather is going to have a tough time signing all his unrestricted free agents, like Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore, while also giving raises to restricted free agents such as Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider . Then there is the buyout of Brad Richards, which is inevitable, and who his replacement will be.
Let’s start with the unrestricted free agents. Stralman is likely to be in for a big time raise, seeing as he already turned down a three year offer worth $9 million from the Rangers during the Olympic break. Stralman has developed into a steady top-four defenseman who has great possession numbers, but doesn’t provide much offense. He will likely get $5 million on the open market. Boyle is also a player who is in for a big raise. He is a great penalty killer, wins faceoffs and has shown the ability to score in the playoffs, something all teams are looking for. Pouliot had his best season as a pro this year, but has shown to be undisciplined at times. He will likely stay with the Rangers, but they must be careful. Moore will likely be re-signed, and will replace Boyle if he leaves.
The restricted free agents all must be signed by Sather. Zuccarello and Brassard showed unbelievable chemistry together this season. Zuccarello, who was the Rangers’ most consistent forward this season, is going to get a big time raise and is a lock to be back with the Rangers next year. Brassard has shown that he loves playing under the bright lights, especially in the postseason, and he will likely be back to center the third or second line. Kreider is the future of the team, as his speed and size make him almost unstoppable. He will grow even more with a full season under his belt. He will be a key piece for the Rangers’ power play for years to come.
The Richards situation is likely to be resolved sometime during the next week. There is a 0.00001 percent chance that he is back with the team next year. He did register 51 points this year, but that is not enough for a guy who is making $6.6 million a year. When Richards is bought-out, Sather will be looking at either Jason Spezza or Paul Stastny as his likely replacement. Acquiring Spezza is a long shot, as the Ottawa Senators don’t want to trade him to a team in the Eastern Conference. Stastny will likely take less money than Richards makes, which gives Sather the chance to take care of his other players.
The 2013-14 season was a memorable one for the Rangers. There were many players who rose to the occasion and became fan favorites. Unfortunately, with the salary cap it makes is almost impossible to keep a team in tact. Sather will have a lot of tough decisions to make for the Rangers this offseason.